US 7370663 B2
A new and useful barrier device for a utility system cover is provided. The barrier device is designed to be coupled to a utility system cover (e.g. a water meter cover), in a way that effectively seals the opening in the cover against ingress of dirt, debris, animals, etc. Moreover, the barrier device also provides a structure that enables a hook like tool to engage and manipulate the coupled barrier device and cover, while maintaining the barrier against ingress of dirt, debris, animals, etc. The barrier device includes a hood with a border that at least partially flattens against a utility system cover as the baffler device is coupled to the utility system cover, so that the border of the hood and the utility system cover combine to form a baffler to materials and objects near the border of the hood. A stem extends from the hood, and is pressed into the utility system cover, in a way that effectively couples the baffler device with the cover. For covers that are too thick for the one piece cap structure, extender structure is provided, to extend the thickness of the cover(s) to which the barrier structure can be coupled.
1. A barrier device for a utility system cover having a tool access opening, comprising a cap structure configured to (a) be coupled to a utility system cover, (b) cover a tool access opening in the utility system cover in a manner that provides a barrier to materials and objects passing through the tool access opening in the utility system cover, and (c) provide structure for engagement by a tool, to enable a coupled barrier device and cover to be manipulated by the tool;
wherein the cap structure comprises a hood and a stem extending away from the hood, the stem configured to be inserted into a tool access opening in a utility system cover and to couple the barrier device to the utility system cover, and the hood being configured to cover the tool access opening in the utility system cover when the cap structure is coupled to the utility system cover;
wherein extender structure is configured to be integrally coupled to the stem, to provide an extended cap structure that can be coupled to a cover, the extender structure comprising an extender and a locking member that can be coupled to the extender to couple the extended cap structure to a cover; the stem having a recess with a closed end and the extender comprising a strap configured to (a) pierce the closed end of the recess (b) extend through the pierced end of the recess and (c) close off the pierced end of the recess, thereby to extend the stem of the cap structure, and the locking member configured to engage the strap in a manner such that the locking member can move along the stem in a first direction for coupling the extended cap structure with a cover, wherein the stem has a distal end with an opening and the extender comprising a strap configured to extend through the opening in the distal end of the recess and to close off the opening in the distal end of the recess, thereby to extend the stem of the cap structure, wherein the locking member comprises a relatively flat portion with a raised portion having a passageway configured to receive the strap and to move along the strap in the first direction, for coupling the extended cap structure with a cover, wherein the raised portion and strap have respective ratchet structure configured to enable the locking member to move in the first direction along the strap and resisting movement of the locking member in the opposite direction along the strap, and
wherein the raised portion extends in one direction from the relatively flat portion, and wherein the relatively flat portion has a peripheral skirt that extends in the opposite direction from the relatively flat portion, the locking member configured such that the peripheral skirt will engage the underside of a fluid system cover when the locking member moves in the first direction along the strap.
2. A barrier device as defined in
This application is related to and claims priority from U.S. provisional application Ser. No. 60/450,041, filed Feb. 26, 2003, which provisional application is incorporated by reference herein.
The present invention relates to a barrier device for a fluid system cover, such as a water meter cover that is manipulated to enable access to the water meter.
Typically, a municipal water system includes underground conduits that are disposed below street and/or sidewalk levels, and contain water meters at strategic locations in the system. An opening in a street or sidewalk system provides access to a water meter, and a water meter cover typically covers the opening and provides a relatively continuous surface upon which pedestrians can walk or vehicles can travel. A water meter cover typically comprises a relatively heavy metal plate like structure that inserts into the opening, and which is manipulated by a person seeking access to the water meter. In the applicants' experience, a water meter cover typically includes an access opening extending through the metal plate, and into which a person seeking to manipulate the cover can insert a hook like tool.
The access opening in a water meter cover, if uncovered, can provide access of dirt, debris, animals, etc, to the water meter, and that is not desirable. However, if the access opening in the water meter cover is covered up, the ability to engage the cover with a tool may be limited or restricted, and that is also not desirable.
The present invention addresses those and other issues in a fluid system cover, by providing a new and useful barrier device designed to be coupled to a fluid system cover (e.g. a water meter cover), in a way that effectively seals the access opening in the cover against ingress of dirt, debris, animals, etc.
Moreover, the present invention provides a barrier device that, in its preferred form, also provides a structure that enables a hook like tool to engage and manipulate the coupled barrier device and cover.
A barrier device according to one preferred form of the present invention comprises a one-piece cap structure configured to be coupled to a fluid system cover. The one piece cap structure includes a hood with a border configured to at least partially flatten against a fluid system cover as the cap structure is being coupled to the fluid system cover, so that the border of the hood and the fluid system cover combine to form a barrier to materials and objects near the border of the hood.
In its preferred form, the one-piece cap structure includes a recess designed for engagement by a tool, to enable a coupled barrier device and cover to be manipulated by the tool.
In addition, the present invention provides additional features that are useful with fluid system covers, and are particularly useful with water meter covers. For example, the barrier device of the present invention is designed to be coupled with covers whose thickness can vary over a predetermined range and which will still provide its new and useful features with covers whose thickness varies over that predetermined range.
Moreover, according to another preferred form of the present invention, structure is provided that can be integrally connected to the one piece cap structure, and which can further extend the thickness range of the fluid system covers with which the cap structure can be used.
Further features and objectives of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description and the accompanying drawings.
As described above, the present invention provides a new and useful barrier device for a fluid system cover, and is particularly useful with a water meter cover. The principles of the invention are described below in connection with a barrier device for a water meter cover. However, from that description, the manner in which the principles of the invention can be used to provide a barrier device for various types of fluid system covers will be apparent to those in the art.
Referring to the figures, the barrier device of
The one-piece cap structure 100 includes a recess 106 configured to allow a hooked tool 108 to be inserted and connected to the cap structure. Once the cap structure is coupled with a water meter cover, a hooked tool 108 can be used to lift the coupled cap structure and cover from the meter box, thus restoring the original intent of the tool access opening 102.
The one piece cap structure 100 has a relatively large domed shaped hood 110 which has a perimeter 111. The domed shape of the hood 110 allows the perimeter 111 of the hood to compress against the meter cover 104 as the cap structure is being coupled to the meter cover, thereby forming a tight seal around the hood perimeter. The domed shape of the hood 110 also forms part of self-adjusting structure of the barrier device that enables it to function with water meter covers whose thickness can vary over a predetermined range.
The recess 106, which allows insertion of the lifting tool 108, has a closed end 112, so that the recess does not extend completely through the cap structure. Thus, the recess, while providing access to a lifting tool 108, closes the tool access opening 102 of the cover 104, so that the recess also forms part of the barrier feature of the cap structure 100. At the top (or mouth) 113 of the recess there is a bar 114, which extends across the mouth, and enables a hooked lifting tool 108 to engage the cap structure (see
The one-piece cap structure includes a stem 120 extending away from the underside of the hood 110. The recess 106 extends at least partially into the stem, so that the part of the stem that inserts into the water meter cover access opening 102 is relatively thin walled and flexible. The thin wall sections of the stem 120 have external barbs or hooks 122 (
The hood 110, which is generally domed shaped, has a narrowed portion 132 near its perimeter 111. That narrowed portion 132 provides the hood with flexibility, particularly near the perimeter of the hood, as the stem 120 is being pressed into the access opening 102 in the cover 104. That flexibility of the hood, enables the hood to substantially flatten against the cover as the cap structure is being coupled to the cover (see
The leading surface 140 of the stem is preferably rounded to aid in the ease of insertion of the stem into the access opening in a water meter cover. The barbs 122 have the angular surface portions 124 so that as the stem is being inserted into the access opening, the angular surface portions engage the wall 126 of the access opening in the water meter cover, and cause the stem wall to flex inwardly during insertion of the stem. The capability of the stem wall to flex inwardly enables the stem to accommodate varying meter access opening widths as the stem is being inserted into an access opening. The relatively narrow portions 132 of the domed hood near the perimeter of the hood can distort to a degree to allow the barbs to pass completely through the access opening in the water meter cover and resiliently snap outward to the locking position of
Thus, as seen from the foregoing description, the barrier device of
The one-piece cap structure of
Specifically, the additional structure essentially extends the length of the stem (thereby providing an extended cap structure), and also provides a locking member that couples the extended cap structure to the thicker cover. The structure for extending the stem comprises an extender 224 and the locking member comprises a snap on member 226 that is coupled to the extender 224 and is adapted to be disposed against the bottom of the thicker cover, to couple the extended cap structure to the thicker cover.
The extender 224 is a one piece element (preferably molded of nylon, or from the same synthetic resin [polypropylene] used to form the cap structure). The extender has a main body portion 227 (sometimes referred to herein as a “strap”), a top portion 228 at the top end of the strap, and a pointed portion 230 at the bottom of the strap 227. The strap 227 has a series of ratchet teeth 232, to enable the snap on member 226 to be coupled to the strap, as described further below. The top portion 228 has curved upper and lower surfaces 234, 236, respectively. The lower surface 236 has a curvature that generally matches the curvature of the bottom wall 150 of the closed end 112 of the recess 106, for reasons described further below. The pointed portion 230 at the bottom of the strap 227 is designed to pierce the closed end 112 of the recess 106, when the extender 224 is being coupled to the cap structure 100.
The locking member 226 is a one piece element, formed of the same synthetic resin (e.g. nylon, polypropylene) used to form the extender. The locking member 226 is configured with a relatively flat, disc shaped portion locking portion 240 and a raised portion 242 with a passageway 244 shaped to receive the strap 227 of the extender. The passageway 244 includes internal ratchet teeth 246 that combine with the ratchet teeth 232 on the strap, to enable the snap on locking member 226 to move in one direction along the strap (i.e. in an upward direction in
To couple the extender 224 to the cap structure 100, the extender 224 is inserted into the recess 106 in the cap structure, with the pointed portion 230 leading. The extender 224 is pressed into the recess 106 with sufficient force that the pointed portion 230 of the extender pierces the closed end 112 of the recess, and the strap 227 is pushed through the pierced recess, until the top portion 228 of the extender engages the bottom wall 150 of the pierced recess. At that point, the top portion 228 of the extender will close off the pierced recess, to prohibit ingress of dirt, debris, and animals through the recess. Specifically, the shape of the bottom surface 236 of the extender top portion 228, which is closely matched to the shape of the bottom wall 150 of the recess, enables the top portion of the extender 224 to effectively close off the pierced recess. In that condition, the part of the cap structure with the extender 224 is inserted into an access opening 260 in a thicker water meter cover 262 (see
In the use of the barrier devices described above, there may be circumstances where the extender structure is provided as an option for extending a one piece cap structure as shown and described in
An alternative configuration for a locking member is shown in
When a barrier device is formed with a locking member configured in
While the barrier device has been described above in connection with a water meter cover, it will be apparent to those in the art that the principles of the invention can be used to form a barrier device for various types of fluid system covers. For example, the principles of the present invention can be used to form a barrier device for use with fluid system covers for irrigation and pools, and for use with various other types of covers. The scope of this invention is limited only by the scope of the following claims.